Festival to address lignite mining concerns

Rob McCreath
Rob McCreath
Climate-change campaigners will gather near Gore this month to support Southlanders concerned about the potential impacts of lignite mining on their communities.

The ''Keep the Coal in the Hole Summer Festival'' will run from January 18 to 21 at Dolamore Park near Gore.

The festival's theme is ''Shaping Our Future - We Have Options'' and is being hosted by Coal Action Murihiku (Cam).

The festival builds on the success of last year's inaugural Keep the Coal in the Hole Summer Festival held on Mike Dumbar's farm south of Mataura.

Cam co-convener Jenny Campbell said the group was formed after last year's festival and was designed to provide a forum for those who had concerns about proposed lignite developments in Eastern Southland.

Cam is connected with the national group Coal Action Network Aotearoa (Cana) which ran the summer festival.

It became clear at the festival, when a wide variety of concerns relating to areas such as health, climate, water and social effects were discussed, that there were a lot of questions but few answers available for residents, Mrs Campbell said.

Australian anti-mining campaigner and farmer Rob McCreath, of Queensland, will be the keynote speaker at this year's festival.

Mrs Campbell said the festival would have a ''more positive focus'' and would explore options.

''We do have options - it's not all doom and gloom.''

Participants will explore problems and challenges, share ideas, skills, education, enthusiasm and how to act now around the issues of coal mining.

The festival will include an update on lignite projects, and a series of workshops.

Several speakers will give addresses at a public open day at the James Cumming Wing on Ardwick St, Gore, on Sunday, January 20. Speakers include Mr McCreath, who was the Friends of Felton founding president.

The Friends of Felton was a community group that won a four-and-a-half-year battle against a proposed open-cut coal mine and a petrochemical plant on the Darling Downs, in Queensland.

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) climate change programme manager Peter Hardstaff will also speak at the festival. Mr Hardstaff will talk about the WWF commissioned report ''Low Carbon Options for Southland'', which was released last year. The topic for his talk will be ''There is an Alternative: A Lower Carbon Future for the Southern Region''.

Other speakers, apart from Cana members Jeanette Fitzsimmons and Kristin Gillies, are new to the festival, .

Mrs Campbell said more than 300 people attended the festival's open education day last year, and about 120 came from throughout New Zealand and from overseas for the event. Registrations for the festival are open at www.nocoalsummerfest.org.nz, and close next Friday, although some late registrations will be accepted.

-helena.dereus@odt.co.nz